Gutkas for Sikhs in UK military for first time

London (TIP): NitnemGutkas, the prayer books of the Sikhs have been issued to military personnel in the British Army for the first time in a century, a media report said on November 9. A move the Ministry of Defence said will “directly support Sikh practice, a key component of their faith”. The prayer books were issued by the UK Defence Sikh Network at a ceremony in London, as per reports. “The Army has been providing Christian religious texts for many years and I saw the opportunity there to open the door for the Sikh faith to provide Sikh texts,” Major Daljinder Singh Virdee, who is in the British Army and has spent two years campaigning for the return of the religious books, was quoted as saying as per reports. The NitnemGutkas were printed in Wiltshire and placed on a throne in a purpose-built vehicle for Sikh scriptures, the report said. They were transported to the library of the Central Gurdwara temple in London, where they were officially issued to military personnel on October 28, it said.

“For Sikhs our scriptures are not just words, they are the living embodiment of our guru. We draw moral strength and physical strength from reading the scriptures every day, it gives us discipline and it grows us spiritually,” Virdee was quoted as saying in the report.

NitnemGutkas were first issued to military personnel more than a century ago, along with other articles of the Sikh faith, including steel daggers, bracelets and wooden combs, but have never been issued again since. There is an original military-issued NitnemGutka in the National Army Museum’s archives, in London, the report added.

Sikh soldiers were recruited to the British military from the 1840s onwards, and have fought at the Battle of Saragarhi; in the First World War, as the “Black Lions”, as well as during the Second World War in Malaya, Burma and Italy. (PTI)

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